The Hogwarts Express is the name of the train that makes a run between London, King's Cross Station Platform 9¾ and Hogsmeade Station. It makes this run at about six times a year, maybe more, as needed.
The Express dutifully carries students to and from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at the start and end of every term. The train leaves Platform 9¾ without fail on 1 September at 11 o'clock in the morning, arriving at Hogsmeade Station in the early evening. Some students take the train back to King's Cross Station to go home for the Christmas and Easter holidays, but some do not, as they stay at Hogwarts. It also makes the run back again to London at the end of term in June.
As we know from early historical accounts, and from the evidence of early woodcuts and engravings, Hogwarts students used to arrive at school in any manner that caught their fancy. Some rode broomsticks (a difficult feat when carrying trunks and pets); others commandeered enchanted carts and, later, carriages; some attempted to Apparate (often with disastrous effects, as the castle and grounds have always been protected with Anti-Apparition Charms), others rode a variety of magical creatures.
In 1827, Ottaline Gambol rose to the office of Minister for Magic, and she made a daring and controversial suggestion to solve the ages-old problem of how to transport hundreds of students to and from Hogwarts Castle every school year without attracting the Muggles' attention. Intrigued by Muggle technology, the Minister saw the potential of using a Muggle steam locomotive as a secure and comfortable alternative to Portkeys or to unregulated means of travel. The locomotive for the Hogwarts Express itself was originally built by the Muggle engineers at Crewe, in Cheshire, England, in the early-to-mid 19th century. In 1830, the Ministry of Magic conducted a large-scale operation involving one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms, as well as the biggest Concealment Charm ever performed in Britain, in order to acquire the locomotive. The morning after this operation, the residents of Hogsmeade awoke to find the gleaming red Hogwarts Express and a Hogsmeade railway station that had not been there previously, and the Muggle railway employees in Crewe had the feeling they had misplaced something, which stayed with them for the rest of the year. There was initial resistance from pure-blood families against using a Muggle-built device for wizard transportation (which, they claimed, was "unsafe, insanitary, and demeaning"), until the Ministry decreed that students would arrive to school on the train or not attend at all.
There is no information on where exactly Hogwarts students were travelling from during the period after the acquisition of the Hogwarts express and the creation of the Hogsmeade station and before the opening of King's Cross Station and the Platform Nine and Three-Quarters in the 1850s.
It was on the Hogwarts Express that Harry Potter first made the acquaintance of Ronald Weasley in 1991, and first met many of the other people who played significant roles in his life, including Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Fred Weasley, George Weasley and, in later years, Remus Lupin and Luna Lovegood. The second confrontation between Harry and Draco Malfoy occurred on the train on the way to Hogwarts when Draco sneered at Ron and offered Harry his friendship. Harry turned down Draco's offer abruptly, marking the beginning of a long-standing enmity and hatred between the two boys.
Harry had his first encounter with a Dementor on the Hogwarts Express in 1993; the train had been stopped by the creatures to determine if escaped criminal Sirius Black was on board. In 1996, Harry and others were invited to a compartment occupied by Professor Horace Slughorn; the Express later ferried the students home early after Albus Dumbledore's funeral. In 1997 the train was once again stopped en-route to Hogwarts, this time by Death Eaters searching for Harry Potter, where they were met with some resistance from its occupants.
In 2017, Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione took their children to Platform 9¾ where they boarded the train to leave for Hogwarts.
In striking contrast to Britain's National Rail system, the Hogwarts Express takes the form of a large red, 4-6-0 steam engine. Originally steam fitted by the Muggles who built it, the Hogwarts Express now runs exclusively on magic.
The passenger carriages hold compartments set off a corridor, allowing each compartment to function as a self-contained stage within the larger train. During the long journey to Hogwarts, students may enjoy treats from a trolley, such as Pumpkin Pasties and Chocolate Frogs. There are usually no adults aboard the Hogwarts Express except the witch with the tea trolley and the driver. Occasionally new teachers (such as Remus Lupin and Horace Slughorn) could be found aboard the train as well.
Behind the scenes
- The Hogwarts Express is portrayed in the Harry Potter films by steam locomotive no. 5972 "Olton Hall".
- Because The Hogwarts Express is portrayed by a GWR Hall class locomotive, its original paintwork was Brunswick green, not crimson red. The unusual paint job on the engine has sparked much controversy among Great Western Railway fans.
- To promote J.K. Rowling's fourth Harry Potter book, a West Country Class Southern Railway locomotive, named Taw Valley, was painted crimson red and was given the Hogwarts Express nameplate. Yet it was rejected by Chris Columbus, the film director, because it looked too modern for the film's taste. Hence Olton Hall was chosen as the star, for its stately appearance.
- Interestingly, the Hogwarts Express conductor at Template:WWHP once claimed that the train was a GWR 5900 and was built in 1936, when the real train was a GWR 4900 (indeed, the 5900 class does not exist) and was built in April of 1937. It is possible, however, that these details were intentionally changed to differentiate the Hogwarts Express from the real train that portrays it. Information from Pottermore, however, points to it being acquired by the Ministry about a century earlier, in the term of Minister Ottaline Gambol (in office 1827-1835).
- During principal photography of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, filming was shut down for several days after the train used as the Hogwarts Express was vandalised, costing £3000; the vandals had spray-painted graffiti onto the train. The train was damaged again in March 2007, after filming of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was completed. A month was required to repair the locomotive, because of the £50,000 worth of damage, as 337 of its toughened windows were smashed with hammers.
- In 2003 the engine that portrayed the Hogwarts Express; Olton Hall was responsible for causing two fires. The first incident saw sparks from the engine set part of a heathland ablaze, while the second saw some railway sleepers catch fire on the York to Scarborough route. The latter event was due to a faulty cinder box.
- The school train is traditionally reserved only for students. Only four adults were ever seen travelling on the train: the Honeydukes Express lady, the conductor, Remus Lupin and Horace Slughorn.
- In the first five films, the Hogwarts Express is shown to have four coaches. However, in the film version of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, it is shown to have five coaches. The fifth coach differs greatly from the rest, because it has no compartments. The fifth coach may have been added due to the fact that it has a luggage rack which the other four lacked, the luggage rack was needed so Harry could eavesdrop on a conversation involving Draco Malfoy. It's also possible that its addition might reflect a higher-than-usual enrollment at Hogwarts. However as there are approximately six hundred students at Hogwarts each year each set up shown in the films seems inadequate for the requirements.
- Being an official vehicle of Hogwarts school, it's possible to surmise that it could be considered an extension of the school and thus fall under at least some of its rules and allowances. This may be why rule-abiding Hermione Granger felt free to cast the Oculus Reparo spell on Harry's glasses in the film version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone which might have otherwise been a violation of underage magic restrictions.
- There have been several models of the Hogwarts express released, including HO/OO scale models by Bachmann and Hornby, O scale by Lionel, and a new G scale model.
- In the film adaption Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the returning Hogwarts Students are only seen on the Hogwarts Express and not at Hogwarts itself, which is due to the film mainly focusing on Harry, Ron, and Hermione's quest to find and destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes.
- As the only stations the Hogwarts Express is noted as stopping at are King's Cross and Hogsmeade it is unclear if students from Scotland, Wales and more remote parts of England (and possibly Ireland) have to make their way to and from Hogwarts via other means or have to make the trip via King's Cross. However, in the film version, Seamus Finnigan is seen on the Hogwarts Express even though he lives in Ireland.
- It is possible it has other stops before reaching King's Cross, but it seems probable that the train only runs from King's Cross to Hogsmeade given that Ron and Harry lived no where near London but used King's Cross.
- The fact that on average there are around one thousand students at Hogwarts each year also poses complications for the Hogwarts Express being the only method for students to reach Hogwarts. However given the existence of various ways of increasing space within carriages and the fact within the books neither the overall number of carriages the Express pulls nor the length of Platform 9¾ are stated leaves the possibility open.
- Throughout the films, the Hogwarts Express has had its iconic whistle but in the third film, a different whistle is used. The reason for this change is unknown.
- The Hogwarts Express has a tender for carrying coal and water.
- In the films and books, it is suggested the staff of the train, in particular the witch with the food trolley, is able to pass through to see the driver of the train. Under normal circumstances this wouldn't be possible, as there is no path through the tender to the cab of the engine. However, the LNER A3/A4s featured a "corridor tender" that allowed for on the fly crew changes. This was done to allow non stop passenger service from King's Cross to Scotland. Crews would change over by way of a special corridor built through the tender that connected with the rest of the train. Thus, it's entirely possible that the Express uses a similar type of tender, though no GWR locomotives ever used these, as they were a LNER type tender. The locomotives tender appears to be a standard GWR tender however.
- There could also be some sort of magical "radio" or a enchanted "mirror" of a sort, where the train crew and passengers can speak through it (or see through) to the driver.
- The locomotive used for the Express, Olton Hall, raised eyebrows in the British train spotting community, since for the films it bears the name "Hogwarts Castle." Many people thus refer to it as "the Hall that thinks it's a Castle," referring to a separate, larger class of engine built by the Great Western Railway.
- The whistle that the locomotive used in the movies was recorded from BR Standard Class 5 No.73082 Camelot.
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